Make the most of your tiny bathroom with this sleek DIY cabinet project.

January 26, 2019

Corner cupboards put unused space to work. They're designed to hold linens or towels, yet are small enough to tuck into a hallway by the bathroom, the bathroom itself, or a corner of a bedroom. Plus, with a little patience and know-how, the average homeowner can build one from scratch. Here's how. 

Before You Begin: Choose Materials and Prep

One of the main considerations of any carpentry project is what materials to buy. The face frame and doors of this cabinet are made of birch plywood and solid poplar that look great when painted. You might choose to make these parts of oak and matching plywood or of another hardwood with a clear finish. The sides and shelves, which won't be visible with the doors closed, are made of lauan plywood, which doesn't take paint quite as smoothly as birch but still looks fine and is a bit less expensive.

You'll need about 16 hours to construct the cabinet, plus finishing time. Before you begin, assemble needed tools and materials, prepare a large work area, and clear the installation site.  

What You Need

  • Birch plywood and solid poplar planks (see cut list)
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • Combination square
  • Bar clamps
  • Tape measure
  • Chisel
  • Stepladder
  • Tablesaw
  • Circular saw with ripping guide
  • Power drill/driver with #6 adjustable counterbore bit and 1/16-inch bit (for predrilling nail holes)
  • Router with 1/2-inch piloted rabbeting bit
  • Doweling jig
  • Pocket-hole jig

Step 1: Cut Off Ends

Set the rip guide on the circular saw to cut 2 inches wide, including the kerf. Cut off one end of a sheet of 3/4-inch lauan plywood leaving you a 94-inch sheet for the sides (A and B).

Step 2: Rip Side A

Set your tablesaw fence to 19-7/16 inches and tilt the blade 45 degrees. With someone to help support the plywood, rip the sheet to make side A. You could make the cut with a circular saw set to 45 degrees and guided by a straightedge.

Step 3: Rip Side B

Set the blade to 90 degrees and set the fence to 18-5/8 inches. Put the beveled side of the remaining piece against the fence with the bevel's point on top, then rip side B. With a circular saw and straightedge, it's better to leave the factory edge square and recut the beveled side.

Editor's Tip: Whenever you rip with a beveled edge against the fence, make sure the bevel's point is the top of the board. If the point were at the bottom it could get wedged under the rip fence, ruining the cut and possibly causing dangerous kickback.

Step 4: Join A and B

Have a helper hold side B upright while you stand on a stepladder to apply glue to the long square edge. Put side A in place and make sure its edge is flush with the back of B as you join the pieces with 1-1/2-inch drywall screws spaced about 12 inches apart.

Step 5: Rip Blanks

Check the inside dimensions of the cabinet. Because plywood thickness vary, you might have to slightly adjust the shelf dimensions. Rip a sheet of 3/4-inch lauan plywood to 25-3/8 inches for the shelf blanks (C). Then set the fence to 12-5/8 inches to rip the blanks to width.

Editor's Tip: It's dangerous and awkward to make a narrow cut across a full-length plywood panel. Instead, do a little math and rough-cut the panel near the middle first with a circular saw. In this case, four shelf blanks need 50-1/2 inches plus 1/2 inch for four kerfs. If you cut the sheet at 51-1/2 inches to be safe, that leaves 44-1/2 inches, plenty for the remaining three panels.

Step 6: Cut Each Blank

Lay out the triangular shelves on the blanks as shown in the drawing below. Set the miter gauge on your tablesaw to the 45-degree mark to the left of 90 degrees. Put the gauge in the slot to the right of the blade and make one cut on each blank.

Step 7: Make Second Shelf Cuts

Reset your miter gauge to the 45-degree mark on the right side of 90 degrees. Put the gauge in the slot to the left of the blade and make the second cut to complete the shelf triangles.

Step 8: Cover and Lay Out Shelves

Cover the front edges of the shelves with edge-banding veneer. Lay out the positions of the shelves on the sides as shown in the drawing below left. Extend the lines around the outside of the cabinet to help locate screws later when you install the shelves.

Step 9: Cut and Attach Cleats

Rip and crosscut side cleats (D) to the dimensions listed. Predrill and countersink two holes in each cleat. With glue and 1-1/4-inch drywall screws, attach a side cleat under each shelf location, 6 inches from the back of the cabinet.

Step 10: Install Shelves

Apply glue to the top of a pair of cleats and install a shelf. Drive three 1-1/2-inch drywall screws through each cabinet side into the shelf. Install the remaining shelves the same way.

Step 11: Make Face Frames

Rip and crosscut poplar to make the face frame parts E through I. Set the tablesaw blade to 45 degrees and bevel one back edge of each side stile (E) and the ends of the rails (H). Be careful not to reduce the front face dimensions of the pieces.

Step 12: Join the Parts

Use glue and pocket-hole joinery to join the parts. Use two pocket-hole screws for each joint to attach the rails (H and I) to stiles and one screw at each joint to attach the center stiles (F and G) to rails.

Step 13: Place Cabinet on Frame

Lay the frame face down. Apply glue to the edges of the cabinet sides, top, bottom, and middle shelf. With someone to help, place the cabinet on the face frame. Make sure the stiles extend equally past both cabinet sides. Drive 1-1/4-inch screws every 12 inches straight into countersunk holes through the back and into the stiles.

Step 14: Add Scews

Turn the cabinet on one side. Add a pocket-hole screw through the bottom of each shelf into the center stile. Drive screws into the middle of the rail for the top, bottom, and middle shelf.

Step 15: Make Rails and Stiles

Rip and crosscut poplar to make the door rails and stiles (J, K, M, N, O, and Q). Use glue and two 1/4-inch-diameter dowels at each joint to join the stiles to the rails. Clamp the joints with bar clamps.

Step 16: Rout Rails and Stiles

Put a 1/2-inch piloted rabbeting bit in the router and set the depth to 1/4 inch. Rout clockwise around the inside of all the rails and stiles. Square the rounded corners of the rabbets with a chisel.

Step 17: Make Door Panels

Rip and crosscut 1/4-inch birch plywood to make four door panels (L and P). Apply glue in the rabbets and press the panels in place. Turn the doors over and wipe off any glue squeeze-out.

Step 18: Mark Rails

When the glue has cured, mark each rail at the center of the door panel. Mark center points on the ends of the 1/4-inch-thick center stiles (M and Q). Align the marks and glue the stiles to the panels.

Step 19: Add Hinges

To locate the hinges on the doors, lay out lines across the back of each left stile 2 inches from each end. Position semi-concealed hinges on the lines and screw them to the backs of the doors.

Step 20: Locate Doors

The doors will overlap the face frame by 1/2 inch on all sides. To locate the doors, set a combination square to 1/2 inch and draw guidelines around the opening, 1/2 inch from it. Have someone align the door on the lines while you predrill hinge holes in the stiles.

Step 21: Paint Cabinet

Remove the hinges from the doors to paint the cabinet. Rip stock for the top trim (R) but leave it long for now. Smooth all the solid wood parts with 80-grit sandpaper, slightly rounding the edges. Prepaint the top trim along with about 3 feet of shoe molding.

Step 22: Place Cabinet

If there is baseboard in the corner, carefully remove it. Put the cabinet in place. Cut the baseboard at 45 degrees to butt into the cabinet, then reinstall it.

Editor's Tip: This cabinet is 94 inches tall so you can easily maneuver it into place under an 8-foot ceiling. (A trim board covers the gap.) If your ceiling is taller, you can purchase a 10-foot-long panel of hardwood plywood for sides A and B. Depending on species, you may have to order the panels at a lumberyard. Be prepared to wait until the yard's next delivery from the supplier.

Step 23: Measure and Cut Molding

Measure across the top of the cabinet and cut 45-degree angles on the top trim to fit. Remember, your measurement is for the back of the miters—the front will be 1-1/2 inches longer. Cut the shoe molding to fit the same way.

Step 24: Attach Trim

Put the trim piece against the ceiling. Predrill holes and attach the trim piece to the face frame with 4d finishing nails. Attach the shoe molding with 1-1/2-inch brads. Replace the doors and touch up the paint.

Step 25: Add Hardware

You can use any door pulls or knobs that suit your taste and decor. Center them across and along the stiles. Screw magnetic catches under the top for the top doors and under the shelf below the middle shelf for the bottom doors. Attach the mating metal plates to the inside of the doors.

Step 26: Cover Any Side Gaps

Walls often aren't plumb or perfectly flat so there may be small gaps on the sides. Cover them with a thin flexible molding—3/4-inch cove molding works well.

Bonus Tips and Tricks

Label Parts with Sticky Notes

You should always label parts as you cut them. You can mark the parts in pencil, but the marks can be hard to find and you'll have to sand them off for finishing. Use sticky notes instead to label the parts. They come off easily and don't leave adhesive residue on the wood.

Use the Right Drill Bit

The #6 adjustable counterbore bit shown is the size you'll need to predrill and countersink drywall screws. Loosen the setscrew to set the bit 1 inch from the countersink depth to drive 1-1/4-inch screws flush to the surface.


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